The Boston Red Sox are playing with house money in the 2021 postseason.
Very few folks expected the team to get this far, but against all odds, Boston is in the ALCS.
The organization is trying to win its fifth World Series title since the turn of the century.
Boston is just eight wins away from getting there.
But in order for the club’s 2021 playoff run to continue, the Red Sox are going to have to deal with the Houston Astros.
The two teams are set to meet in the ALCS for the second time in four years.
Boston got the best of Houston the last time these two organizations met in the ALCS (in 2018), and the Sox are trying to ensure a similar outcome this time around.
Boston recently announced its starting pitchers for the first two games of the series.
Chris Sale starting Game 1, Nate Eovaldi starting Game 2 for the Red Sox.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) October 14, 2021
Here’s what to make of that.
Sale Starting Game 1 Is A Bit Of A Surprise
Many Red Sox fans are still processing the fact that Sale is going to be the Game 1 starter.
It’s hard to blame anyone who’s questioning the decision.
Sure, Sale looked good throughout his nine-start regular season.
But over his two most recent starts — both of which came in massive games — there were some red flags.
On the final day of the regular season, the Red Sox needed a win against the Washington Nationals to clinch a playoff bid.
The team turned to Sale in hopes of getting a shutdown outing from him, but instead, the lefty failed to make it out of the third inning.
He allowed four hits, three walks, and two runs over just 2.1 innings of work.
Fortunately, Boston was able to escape with a win anyway.
Red Sox fans were willing to forget about Sale’s performance.
But folks in Boston weren’t so forgiving after the 32-year-old’s next start.
In Game 2 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, Sale got smacked for five runs over one inning of work in a game the Red Sox desperately needed to win.
Chris Sale today:
1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO, 30 P
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 8, 2021
Somehow, the offense bailed him out again, and Boston ended the night with a 14-6 victory.
But still, it was a bad showing for Sale.
The takeaway: It has been a rough go for the seven-time All-Star lately.
We all know what he’s capable of, but it’s alarming that he hasn’t been able to get the job done in high-leverage games this season.
He’ll hope to end that trend in Game 1 against Houston.
The Red Sox Might Be Favored In Game 2 With Eovaldi On The Mound
Since joining the Red Sox, Eovaldi has established himself as an elite playoff performer.
He was dominant throughout the 2018 postseason en route to Boston’s World Series title, and he has been impressive in 2021 as well.
In the Red Sox’s ALDS against Tampa Bay, he turned in 10.1 total innings of three-run ball.
He struck out 16 batters along the way and held the Rays to a mere .179 batting average.
The Red Sox went 2-0 in his outings and likely wouldn’t have gotten past the Rays without him.
Nathan Eovaldi crushed it.
He’s been the dominant ace the Red Sox needed him to be.
— Bastards of Boston Baseball 🎙 (@Bastards_Boston) October 10, 2021
Overall, Eovaldi has a career postseason ERA of 1.93 and FIP of 2.77.
The moment never seems to get too big for the 31-year-old.
Some players simply have what it takes to perform on big stages, and Eovaldi is one of them.
He’ll likely get two starts in this ALCS against Houston (if the series lasts long enough).
Boston should feel good about its chances every time Eovaldi toes the rubber for the remainder of the postseason.